People need ‘tower power'

ANTI-TELCO tower campaigner Sue Hetherington has told a Federal parliamentary inquiry that communities need more power to stop towers being built near homes.

Lennox Head resident Ms Hetherington from WHAAT (Worried Householders Action Against Tower), said she was hopeful the inquiry into mobile phone towers held in Canberra last week may yet result in the Optus tower in Lennox Head being removed.

The Basalt Court tower was installed late last year despite community and council opposition.

Ms Hetherington said telco companies had been revealed during the inquiry as "arrogant bullies" with unfettered power.

"It's all been hidden for years and years and every single authority is doing nothing," she said.

She told the inquiry that the experience of the Lennox Head community was that industry self-regulation was not working and a "change was urgently needed".

"The lack of information was at best misleading and with Optus's unwillingness to talk to the community and arrogant behaviour until the last minute, it made a mockery of our consultation and the code."

"Not even Ballina Shire Council had any power under the code."

The inquiry is examining an Australian Greens private bill that would require phone companies to consult properly with households when installing new towers.

The bill also called for radio frequency exposure standards to be reviewed every five years and to force the communications regulator to take a more precautionary approach.

Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association spokesman Chris Althaus said the bill would add billions of dollars to the cost of building mobile phone infrastructure.

Mr Althaus rejected claims the industry was paying scientists to produce reports playing down the health risks.

A spokesman for the Communications Alliance, the primary telecommunications industry body, said a new mandatory code of behaviour was being drafted.

A draft report from the inquiry will be tabled in the Senate on May 9.

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